Report of the Secretary-General:
On the Implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015) and 2332 (2016) in the Syrian Arab Republic
Date: 19 April 2017
Period: 1-31 March 2017
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), the Security Council orders: all parties to immediately put an end to all forms of violence and attacks against civilians; rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners; to demilitarise medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities; to lift the sieges of populated areas; to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights. Pursuant to Resolution 2165 (2014), the Security Council also requests to establish a mechanism to monitor the humanitarian situation on the ground. In this vein, Resolution 2139 (2014) invites relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women (para. 30).
The report gives a detailed account of humanitarian and security situation in Syria and provides an update on the fourth and fifth rounds of the United Nations-facilitated political negotiations in Geneva, which ended with “a clear agenda and a greater understanding of the points of commonality and divergence between all parties” (paras. 3, 55). The report also highlights some progress achieved in the reconstruction of critical infrastructure, including through repairing the main water pumping station (para. 13) and significant reduction of the threat of the Tabaqah collapsing (para. 14). Despite this, it expresses concerns about growing violence in multiple areas, which results in further civilian deaths and injury, and about the growing number of casualties caused by air strikes on the ISIL-controlled areas (para. 15). Deliberate interference and restrictions by all parties to the conflict also continued to prevent aid delivery. The report notes that the majority of United Nations agencies and their partners continue to be unable to access populations in need in ISIL-controlled areas of the country, given that all plans to deliver assistance to those areas have been suspended owing to the inability to work independently and monitor activities (para. 30).
Of 55 paragraphs in the report, 3 (5,45%) include references to women and gender. Even though some references are provided to the engagement of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in political negotiations in Geneva, existing references to women’s rights and experiences generally highlight their vulnerability. For example, the report suggests that “Idlib governorate witnessed an increase in the number of reported civilian casualties, including women and children, as a result of the reported intensification of air strikes that, in particular, affected the south of the governorate” (para. 12). All other references to women and gender are provided within the same rhetoric.
The protection needs of women in Syria are not discussed in the report. However the reports of local sources suggest that threats and/or actual exercise of rape, sexual violence and sexual harassment are utilised in Aleppo, particularly by government and pro-government forces for persecution and retaliation purposes. In fact, the report does not refer to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) crimes, not even once. The report also fails to specify the ways in which international or national non-governmental organisations address women’s health issues, including reproductive health and family planning provisions, and address women’s protection needs.
The risk of SGBV is heightened during conflict by aggravating factors, including the polarisation of gender roles, the proliferation of arms, the militarisation of society and the breakdown of law and order. There is no discussion on measures undertaken by relevant actors to prevent further instances of SGBV and proliferation of weapons and improvised explosive devices. The UN Secretary-General does not bring any light to the lack of international commitment to refraining from arms sales and ammunition supplies to the Syrian government and other parties to the conflict.
While Resolution 2139 (2014) requests all relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society (para. 30), all subsequent reports are silent on this issue. Referencing the engagement of civil society, including the Special Envoy’s Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in political negotiations in Geneva, this report however does not provide any information on efforts made to ensure the Board’s meaningful participation in the peace process (S/RES/2139, para. 30). The empowerment of Syrian women requires full recognition of their active role in leadership, development, conflict resolution and promotion of durable and sustainable peace, rather than perceiving them as mere victims of the conflict. The UN Secretary-General does not incorporate gender analysis in his coverage of the political and security situation and fails to highlight the main barriers to women’s participation in Syria.
The protection and empowerment of women in Syria require a more comprehensive legal response to the crimes committed against women in particular and against civilians in general, including the fight against impunity and the change of existing legal framework. While the existing political dead-lock significantly limits the possibility of adjusting legal system and addressing impunity in Syria, the UN Secretary-General’s report, at the same time, makes no specific references to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda and fails to account for the lack of services provided for women in the context of the current humanitarian and security situations in Syria.
The report should be able to assess the role of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in the Geneva negotiations and inquire the Security Council to ensure Syrian women’s meaningful participation in the UN-facilitated political process (S/RES/2254), including by inviting relevant parties to provide sufficient resources for these activities. Further the UN Secretary-General should inquire the Security Council to establish and support a transparent and consultative process between the Women’s Advisory Board and the larger Syrian women’s movement to ensure that input into the peace talks accurately reflects the diverse perspectives of civil society. Reporting process should also be reflective of the status of women’s participation in design and implementation of all initiatives throughout the conflict cycle.
The report must include information not only on cases of violations of the ceasefire agreement and the use of weapons against critical infrastructure. Also it should discuss the efforts that are made by all parties to the conflict to end all forms of violence and attacks against civilians (S/RES/2139, para. 2). If there are no efforts made, it also has to be clearly stated and further addressed by the Security Council. An update on the ways to address restrictions on humanitarian aid to women in hard-to-reach and besieged areas and prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence, including in IDP camps is also required.
The munitions survey report showed that most munitions in Syria had been manufactured in factories located in China, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet countries. The UN Secretary-General should explicitly call upon member states to refrain from selling arms sales, providing ammunition supplies and delivering explosives to any of the parties in conflict or countries that might transfer the explosives to them because of their impact on civilians and on women, as mandated by articles 6 and 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty.
The lack of references to the WPS resolutions in both UNSG reports and UNSC resolutions on Syria further complicates the implementation of the WPS Agenda in the country-specific context. It is imperative that the UN Secretary-General’s reports on the situation in Syria integrate gender analysis throughout each section of the report to ensure women’s concerns are adequately represented, providing a balance between the protection and participation aspects.